The New York Knicks have one of the most valuable franchises in sports due to the New York market and a passionate fan base. Most NBA fans have laughed at the Knicks failing to do anything impactful since the late 1990s, but they still hold a great deal of relevance. Past eras of the franchise have seen certain names become synonymous with their success.
New York fans will give players a hard time if they underperform in any sport, but they get a lot of love for their accolades after retirement. Most of the names on this list will be on the retired stage when looking at the team’s history. The following Knicks were the greatest in the franchise’s history with great memories associated with their New York time.
UPDATE: 2023/09/27 11:24 EST BY ETHAN SCHLABAUGH
The New York Knicks have one of the most die-hard fan bases which has led to some players becoming legends on the team with or without much success in the sense of championships. Ranging from names that were being pushed away from teams due to poor work ethic or players that would become better with another team, New York has shown their appreciation for a majority of the players that come through their doors. Here are a few extra New York Knicks players that need to be mentioned as the best of all time for the franchise.
18 J.R. Smith
J.R. Smith only played for the New York Knicks for a total of four years before leaving for Cleveland but during those four years, he was an absolute monster of a sixth man. His time in New York came after a year in Zhejiang where he played for the Golden Bulls, during this time he scored an incredible 60-point game.
Smith would join the Knicks and immediately start putting in the work and played consecutive 30-point games coming off the bench and earned the Sixth Man of the Year title in 2013.
17 Bill Cartwright
While Bill Cartwright is mostly known to fans either from his days as a Chicago Bulls player or his time as a coach for teams like the Bulls, Nets, or Suns, Cartwright started his career playing for the Knicks after getting picked up in the 1979 draft.
Cartwright earned one of his best season stat lines during his rookie year in New York where he scored a 21.7 PPG, 38.4 MPG, and an 8.9 RPG. Sadly his time on the Knicks didn’t amount to much and Cartwright would play with the Bulls and help capture three championships in a row from the 1990-1991 season to the 1992-1993 season.
16 Larry Johnson
The Charlotte Hornets would grab University of Nevada, Las Vegas student Larry Johnson via the first pick in the 1991 draft. Johnson had a pretty solid career with the team playing from 1991 to 1996 before leaving and joining the New York Knicks.
Johnson played with greats like Patrick Ewing and Charles Oakley during his time on the team. Johnson also had a helping hand in getting the Knicks to the 1999 finals where they faced the San Antonio Spurs.
15 Mark Jackson
NBA fans know Mark Jackson today for his commentary work with ABC and ESPN, but he was once among the most respected point guards in the NBA. Jackson was a pass-first point guard who thrived at facilitating during his playing career.
The New York Knicks drafted Jackson and saw him averaging 11 points and 8 assists during his time there. Jackson made his one All-Star appearance as a member of the Knicks. New York fans loved rooting for Jackson since he grew up in the area and was a local success story.
14 Julius Randle
It always feels a little odd to place a current player with the all-time franchise stars, but Julius Randle is already achieving more than most New York Knicks. The team adding Randle felt like a small move before he shocked them with a breakout season.
Randle has made his sole All-Star appearance and received his sole All-NBA selection as a member of the Knicks. The Most Improved Player Award cemented Randle’s name in NBA history. Randle is still playing tremendous basketball and keeping them relevant with a weaker roster.
13 Amar’e Stoudemire
The summer of 2010 saw every major NBA team hoping to add star power. LeBron James, Dwayne Wade, and Chris Bosh all signed with the Miami Heat despite the New York Knicks making pitches to them. Amar’e Stoudemire was next on the Knick’s free agent list to get offered a max contract.
Everyone knows Stoudemire was better for the Phoenix Suns, but he started off quite impressive for New York. Amar’e only received one All-Star appearance and one All-NBA selection before injuries slowed down him. However, the averages of 17.3 points and 6.7 assists deserve more recognition for his time with the franchise.
12 John Starks
Few NBA players have ever developed as strong of a bond with the New York Knicks fans as John Starks. The unlikely fan favorite became a huge part of the Knicks 1990s roster that competed strongly against teams like the Chicago Bulls and Houston Rockets.
Even though the team fell short of winning an NBA Championship, New York fans still love the players who have yet to be outdone since that time. Starks was known for being extremely hot or cold, but his best moments made him a beloved fan favorite.
11 Latrell Sprewell
Latrell Sprewell was the subject of controversy when suspended for choking his coach on the Golden State Warriors. The future of Sprewell was up in the air that next offseason until the Knicks made a shocking trade to shake things up.
New York fell in love with Sprewell since he was an exciting talent that helped them start winning again. The Knicks making the 1999 NBA Finals came thanks to Sprewell as arguably the best player. Sprewell averaged 16.5 points for New York in an underrated run.
10 Charles Oakley
Charles Oakley only made one All-Star team and never averaged more than 15 points in his career, but he still was an all-time great New York Knick. The 1990s Knicks team that contended in the Eastern Conference saw Oakley most representing their spirit.
New York fans loved the gritty style of hard-nosed plays, fighting for rebounds, and generally superb defense that came from Oakley. The Knicks had a few chances of contending for a title with Oakley as a top-three player, even though they never got over the hump.
9 Bill Bradley
Many of the greatest New York Knicks players are from decades ago when the team won their last NBA Championships. Bill Bradley was a valued piece of the Knicks’ roster during their championship runs in 1970 and 1973.
A decade with the Knicks saw Bradley making one All-Star appearance before the rosters expanded and having his jersey retired by the franchise. Bradley became a successful politician after basketball, but he remains a beloved New York sports figure for his basketball legacy.
8 Allan Houston
Allan Houston became the face of the New York Knicks franchise in the early 2000s when he came over from the Detroit Pistons. The scoring ability and outside shooting of Houston helped him become the top player for the franchise as the Patrick Ewing era ended.
Houston made two All-Star appearances representing the Knicks and was the player who led the team during a few postseason runs. New York making the 1999 NBA Finals with Houston as the face of the franchise was the peak of his NBA career.
7 Bernard King
The legendary Bernard King spent five seasons with the New York Knicks towards the prime of his career and was a tremendous talent. King made all four All-Star appearances of his career with the Knicks and helped them during a difficult transition.
New York even witnessed King leading the league in scoring once with a superb average of 32.9 points per game. King made the Knicks a hot ticket even with the ups and downs of his time on the franchise. An injury ended King’s run right around the time Patrick Ewing joined the franchise.
6 Earl Monroe
Earl “The Pearl” Monroe was more than just a cool nickname as he became a huge part of the New York Knicks franchise. The success of Monroe helped the Knicks have another necessary piece to win the 1973 NBA Championship.
Monroe had various ups and downs throughout the rest of his tenure, but he spent the remaining time in the NBA with the Knicks. The fan-favorite ensured New York continued their winning ways while adding new chapters to the legacy of his career.
5 Carmelo Anthony
Carmelo Anthony is the only player for the New York Knicks in the past two decades to have the same relevance as the 1990s or 1970s players. The trade for Anthony saw the Knicks making him the face of the franchise when he wanted out of Denver.
Anthony made the All-Star Game every season he played in New York and helped them get to the second round of the playoffs with a weak roster. The lack of winning was the only negative to Melo’s time on the Knicks, but that was mostly out of his control.
4 Dave DeBusschere
The underrated Dave DeBusschere was a huge part of the New York Knicks’ success throughout his tenure there. DeBusschere made an impressive six All-Star appearances for the Knicks when they were at their greatest strength.
New York won both of their NBA Championships in the early 1970s with DeBusschere as a huge part of the roster. The nearly guaranteed double-double machine had his jersey retired by the Knicks to have the ultimate honor.
3 Willis Reed
Willis Reed was the main person in arguably the greatest moment in New York Knicks franchise history. The return from an injury in the 1970 NBA Finals helped add the emotion for the Knicks to win the game and ultimately the NBA Championship.
Reed was the NBA Finals MVP in both of the Knicks’ title wins in 1970 and 1973. The New York fan base adored Reed for spending his entire superb career with the franchise. Reed remains the only player to ever win either a regular season MVP or Finals MVP as a member of the Knicks.
2 Patrick Ewing
Any basketball fan from the 1990s will immediately think of Patrick Ewing when it comes to all-time great New York Knicks. Ewing was drafted to New York as the franchise savior and led them to relevance rather quickly.
The Knicks were a title contender for many years with great regular season after great regular season thanks to Ewing leading the way. Ewing made eleven All-Star appearances and was always a top player in the league. Unfortunately, he played in the same era as Michael Jordan and Hakeem Olajuwon to never won a title.
1 Walt Frazier
No player has been as beloved in the New York Knicks community as long or as strongly as Walt “Clyde” Frazier. Even though Willis Reed won both NBA Finals MVPs, many fans viewed Frazier as the heart and soul of both NBA Championship rosters. Current point guards are still compared to him at times.
Frazier was a stylish player on and off the court with an outstanding seven All-Star appearances. The Knicks franchise treated Frazier as the face of the franchise and that extended to his post-playing career. Frazier has been the team’s color commentator for decades and is considered the voice of the franchise.